Among composers there is an old tradition of honoring patrons or friends by incorporating their names into the fabric of the music. One version is the soggetto cavato (carved subject) of Renaissance music. Later examples include the BACH motif, D.Sch. as the personal symbol of Shostakovich, and the coded names in Schumann's piano music.
Dialoghi (Dialogues) was written as a gift to a friend, the American cellist Elinor Frey. Its theme is the six letters of her first name, translated into notes: E, L (= la, or A), I (= mi, or E), N (= G, according to one often-used system), O (= do, or C), and R (= re, or D) - hence the work's subtitle, "Studi su un Nome" (Studies on a Name). The music unfolds in seven short, vividly contrasting variations. Since the name-theme uses only five different notes, namely the pentatonic C, D, E (twice), G, and A, many of the variations juxtapose these five with other, contrasting combinations drawn from the remaining seven notes of the chromatic scale. The last variation leads to a grand restatement of the theme but then subsides into a serene coda.
Why "dialogues"? Partly because the theme notes and the non-theme notes so often engage in "conversation" throughout, but more importantly because the friendship being recognized in this piece rests not only on my musical collaborations with Elinor but also on our wonderful conversations about books, music, paintings, films, psychology, religion, food, and all things Italian (hence the Italian title).
Dialoghi was composed in October 2006 and was given its first public performance by its dedicatee in Cazenovia, New York, on July 14, 2007.
- Steven Stucky